Archive for the 'Fighting SuperDad' Category

22
Jul
13

Who I Am vs What I Do

So there might be some changes coming on the job front again, though I won’t get into that now because it may not happen.

Anyway, as things might shift for me, I find myself struggling with the concept of changing what I do on a day to day basis and having a certain amount of anxiety about it.

As if changing what I do alters who I am. Which, on the one hand, it does because your experiences in life shape who you are as a person. Especially in America where we so closely identify with our jobs. Think about it.

How often do you answer “I am……” when someone asks what you do? Always?

We spend an awful lot of time at our jobs, whatever they are. So much so that they bleed into who we are.

Is that really a big deal? Well, sometimes, yes.

It’s why people fall apart when they get laid off, or waste away when they retire. We get so wrapped up in what we don, it’s all we are.

Or at least that’s how it feels. It certainly seems to be an issue for multiple men I know as well as women as well.

And it’s a real issue if, like me, your job changes on a semi-frequent basis. Seriously, how the hell am I supposed to know who I am if every year I have a different job title? How do I keep my feet under me?

The answer came to me walking some dogs today and it’s surprisingly straightforward.

Don’t let what you do define who you are.

There’s a line in the movie Fight Club:

You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis.

Now, I cut out the very end because I don’t happen to think I’m the ” the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world” but otherwise it’s one of a few truths in an otherwise satirical look at male culture.

You’re not defined by the job you do. That goes for you ladies as well.

Notice I didn’t say “you’re not defined by what you do” because you are. We are what we do, in other words the actions we take are part of who we are.

HOWEVER, we are not defined by the job we do.

As a people, the human race love to categorize others as well as ourselves. I don’t know if (especially in America) it’s the general competitiveness left over from climbing over one of other in the primordial muck or if we do it to prove we fit somewhere.

Jobs easily define us.

But they shouldn’t.

I’m far more complex than what I do to earn a living. I’m far more than what I fill my day doing. I’m more than the sum of my paychecks and piles of work.

I’m a dad and a husband and a son and an avid reader and a lover of comics and a surfer and a huge nerd and a sports fan and a writer and a film nut—and on and on.

No one thing defines who I am. No one thing should.

We keep letting it though.

But not me. No more. Whether this new opportunity happens or doesn’t, whether I change my job title once or a hundred times in the coming years it won’t change who I am.

I won’t let it anymore.

Who’s with me?

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

03
Jul
13

I Sprained my Ankle Falling Off my High Horse

Early on in the long history (weeks) of this blog, I wrote something about a Today Show bit where they asked if men could “have it all” or not and the relative ridiculousness of the actual question.

During the piece I took the subject of the Today Show segment to task for being stuck in what I feel is the dated idea that, as a man, he had to make the money to support his family.

I felt pretty damned good about myself post-column, I can tell you.

Fast forward to last week when I suddenly found myself broke.

As you may remember, I am a sportswriter and last April I found myself without a contract for the site I worked for. I won’t get too much into it but it was sudden, surprising and eliminated quite a bit of income for our little household.

Now, the Wife makes good bank so while we aren’t Scrooge McDuck rich or anything, we are OK and I pick up the odd job here or there (dog walking!) as well as some freelance work.

Still, my bank account isn’t exactly fat at any time and last week I realized as I ran from the grocery store to the gas station to my son’s gymnastics class that I was going through what little I got paid per month really, really fast.

This was on top of a general freak out I had the weekend before over money which I chalked up to just starting to diet and not having received my first dog walking check.

Really, though, it was about not providing for my family. More embarrassing, it was about having to ask the Wife for money.

OH SWEET IRONY, THY KISS IS DEADLY!

Let’s break those two things down here—though they are connected.

First of all, despite the fact that the plan had always been for me to be home with the kids and work from home, that’s almost never been the case. We haven’t been able to do it for a number of reasons—my wife getting her Masters, the collapse of the economy, bad timing—but it was always a goal, even if we lost sight of it for a bit.

Quite often, in fact, I’ve been the one to keep the family afloat as my wife has slowly put her career together to get to the point where she could carry us.

Even before I parted ways with my employer, the Wife had told me “if they low ball you, we can walk away. We’ll be fine.”*

Of course, I didn’t expect to have to take her up on that so I didn’t really think about what that meant.

Confronted with the reality of it—I’m not as in control of our finances and not a huge part of paying our bills—I pretty much felt like I got slapped in the face.

For the first time in years—probably since I went back to work post-Alpha Tween—I was not the main source of income. There have been brief times when I wasn’t but this felt final.

I don’t think it hit me until the past two weeks—probably until I started this blog and began looking at my whole life through the lens of “what it means to be a guy and a dad.”

The second part—asking for money—is something I haven’t really had to do since I was a kid. Don’t get me wrong—when things were rough for our family, we’ve had to ask for help. But I have not had to ask money for me in a long time.

Now I’m asking—at the ripe old age of 42—another adult for a few bucks. Forget that, for the most part, it’s for important things like food and gas.

Whatever I need it for I’m having to ask my wife for money.

It’s a reasonable request, right?

Now I will admit that I don’t know if it’s more of an issue I have to ask my wife for money, a woman for money or another person for money.

I understand how brutally sexist that makes me look and I’ll be honest that I’m a tad shocked myself.

So while I lean towards the idea of asking anyone for money as the source of my issues, I can’t say there isn’t a little gender role issue mixed in.

Asking for the money is especially tough because, given that I am broke, I can’t just do anything I want. I might have to borrow money to go see a movie or to rent a DVD or any number of things I was able to just go and do.

It felt like—I don’t know if degrading is the word, but it’s close. And again, the idea that I can feel degraded or lessened because I have to ask my wife for money is upsetting in it’s own way.

I thought a lot about the two things listed above this week before I wrote this piece.

A few factors that, once I admitted them to myself, became much easier to overcome.

Ego

Man or woman, we all like to stand on our own. We don’t want to have to rely on someone else, even though most of the time we should and have to.

I had to come to understand that it wasn’t insulting to rely on the Wife. Hell that’s part of marriage. You rely on each other for both little and big things.

It’s not degrading to say “hey I’m short cash, can I get $60 for gas?” and it’s not degrading to say “Listen I really want to see the new Iron Man, is it cool if I borrow ten bucks?”

Marriage is a partnership. I’ve picked up the slack before and now she is.

This is about me dealing with my hangups. Meanwhile, she’s patiently waiting for me to get over myself.

And toughest thing about asking for help is getting over yourself.

It’s not easy for anyone. When it comes to money, it’s even more difficult for most folks, though I think it’s very hard for men (especially family men) because we still buy into the myth that a real man is a man who brings home the bacon.

Truth is, sometimes your partner brings it home and you get to cook it. And that’s fine.

Plus either way: bacon is delicious.

Freedom

Not being able to just pick up and go to the movies, buy a wacky T-shirt (I have many) or whatever other nonsense I waste my money on—that’s difficult.

I have to think things through before I buy them? THE HELL YOU SAY.

It’s also about worrying that my purchases and spending habits will be judged.

Mind you, my wife knows I buy stupid T-Shirts. It’s part of my charm, after all, and for goodness sake, if she hasn’t figured out I can’t help myself by now, what has she been doing for the last ten plus years?

But to some extent you really feel like you have to check with the other person when you ask for money. “Can I have X for Y? seems like a reasonable sentence until “Y” becomes “this really awesome Game of Thrones T-Shirt” which I already know I don’t need.

In the end though, either you ask for money or you don’t. I’m not getting grilled about why I need it unless I’m in her face every other day asking for $100 for “stuff”.

The lack of freedom is really just in my head. Lots of weird things live there.

Usefulness

If I’m not earning money to contribute to the household, what good am I?

That’s the single most devious thought that has entered the back of my mind and nested there.

It’s insane, given that I really feel like contributing to the household isn’t just about money. It’s not even mostly about money.

The idea that a man has to earn the living for the house is bullshit but it’s there. It’s there in our society in film, on television, in books—you can’t escape it. And it needles into your head like the Ceti eels from Wrath of Khan and pretty much takes root there whether you like it or not.

Men aren’t defined by how much money they contribute to the household any more than women are defined by whether they stay home with the kids or not—or even if they have kids. Not anymore.

I mean, society will try to define you that way but we sure as hell don’t have to play that bullshit game, right?

Whether I earn the most money or not isn’t all that vital—how I help with carrying the load for our family in other ways  is what’s critical.

Remembering that is really hard as I have found out over the past two weeks.

So if you’re like me and you find yourself home, working some and hanging around to shuttle the kids here and there, remember—you’re still you, you’re still a critical part of your family and what money you make—if you make any at all—isn’t all the value you have to your family. Not even close.

You’re more than that. Much more.

Now join me in going to ask our wives for some pin money.

* I just want to take a moment to praise the Wife for that. That sort of support is incredible for a writer (or for anyone) and really, really helped prior to and after the fateful phone call. This is one of the many reasons I love you, Wife.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

19
Jun
13

This is what I was talking about: Can Men Have It All? (Today Show)

In a moment of universal synchronicity (or dumb luck) The Today Show broached a subject we touched on late Tuesday night and will be a frequent topic of conversation around here for some time to come.

image via The Today Show

image via The Today Show

The segment was called “Can Men Have it All?” and it ran Wednesday morning. You can watch the video of it at Today.com, though I’d like to point out they filed it under “Moms”. I guess that’s the target audience but a section called “Dads” or “Parenting” would have been far more apt, right?

I guess that’s a rant for another day.

It’s an interesting video and I wanted to call a few things out in it.

At 0:46 of the video, we’re introduced to Hugh Kenny, who is “doing more around the home” (how novel). Hugh travels three days a week and talks a bit about the sacrifice he makes to do so, missing day care events and sports.

What struck me wasn’t that, because we all have to sacrifice something to balance everything out, right? I won’t judge his choices.

No, what got me was his need to “provide” for his family – just as his dad did before him.

Even with two people working, to Hugh, it’s his job to provide a living for his family.

It’s exactly the same thing the young man who I was trying to council a week or so ago (talked about a little here) was worried about. How can you spend more time with your kids, AND work a full time job AND help around the house AND AND AND

image captured from the movie Big Trouble in Little China and is NOT a self potrait

image captured from the movie Big Trouble in Little China and is NOT a self portrait

:KABOOM:

Seriously, how does your head not explode?

So we’re still stuck in the same place our dads were – it’s up to us (as men) to be the breadwinners even when our wives and partners earn money as well.

Our identity is still wrapped up in that space. That’s incredible pressure.

Don Draper is wondering why you're sitting reading when you should be working dammit. image via AMC's Mad Men

Don Draper is wondering why you’re sitting reading when you should be working dammit. image via AMC’s Mad Men

I was also interested in the host’s question of whether, given the choice a man would choose a promotion (and I would assume more hours/less family time) or more soccer games (more kid time).

It’s a good question and I was a little surprised to hear the guest say more and more men choose the family time. Not because I don’t agree, but because we aren’t programed to do that.

Another thing: 3 out of 5 men don’t hear praise or appreciation from their spouses for their expanded roles.

I don’t know I buy this, but you guys tell me. All I can say is, sometimes I hear it, sometimes I don’t. I also don’t do it for the props, I do what I do because I want to and because I’ve chosen to.

Finally, while I do agree with the guest that the idea that you can “have it all” is in some ways silly because we can’t have everything we want, when we want it, I don’t agree we can’t “have it all”.

Confused? Me too, but bear with me.

We can have it all – if we are better at having a realistic idea of what “it all” is.

Take a friend of mine for example. As far as I can tell, he “has it all”.

He’s working a dream job – I mean, it’s ridiculous how jealous I get of him, and I have worked and do work some fantastic gigs. But with the awesomeness comes lots of work – it’s a full time job and gets more full time during football season.

My friend also has a great family – a wife, three wonderful daughters (one of which has special needs) – who I know mean the absolute world to him.

I constantly see pictures of him in social media, not just at cool work things, but spending time with his family.

Now, is his life perfect? I can’t say. But he’s happy and as far as I can tell, he’s “got it all”. He keeps working to improve it all, and his goals shift but in the end, he sets his expectations in a sane and reasonable manner (most times) and then shoots for his goals.

Maybe his “got it all” isn’t mine or yours, but it’s a damned good one for him. In my mind, it also proves we can have it all.

We just need to do a better and more reasonable job defining what that is.

Maybe it’s providing money for the family. Maybe it’s providing dinner. Maybe it’s providing the care and feeding of the kids. Maybe it’s a mixture of some of those and a few more things.

But let’s first stop limiting ourselves by defining what we are by what our dad’s were.

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What I’m Into:

Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher Listening to: The Heist, Macklemore Watching: Damages